STAFF EDITORIAL: Students should avoid hasty lease signing

Apartment and house hunting students: Relax, breathe easy and think before hastily signing a lease.

September through November mark the busiest months for students signing leases for the following school year.

Rushing to sign a lease prevents students from thoroughly researching and comparing several properties to make an informed decision.

Landlords and the university aren’t to blame for the vicious cycle.

The student population drives the market to respond to students’ high demand to sign and renew leases much earlier compared to other universities.

Annette Shroud of Shovers Realty said students looking for her company’s apartments around the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee don’t have the same urgency as Marquette students, some signing as late as June.

Many Marquette students think there is a limited supply of quality housing exists on campus and hustle to sign a lease.

Marquette does have an increasing student body competing for a narrow slice of units, said Marquette Real Estate Chair Mark Eppli, which helps explain why students hurry to sign leases.

Also, many students associate living between the boundaries of Wisconsin and Kilbourn avenues and 13th and 16th streets as safer living accommodations.

However, students who live farther from campus seem more conscious of their surroundings by riding LIMOS or the bus, said Jimmy Schulhof of Schulhof Property Management LLC.

And students have more housing options than they think: There are more than 100 apartments off campus and more than 90 houses to choose from, said Stacie Dooley, associate dean of Residence Life for University Apartments and Off-Campus Student Services.

Before signing a lease, keep the following tips in mind:

Read through the tenant guide. Know exactly which questions to ask landlords.

See for yourself. Don’t rely on roommates’ opinions about an apartment or house.

They may like the rustic feel of buckled hardwood floors, but all you’ll see are splinters.

Research the utility costs. This is especially true of old homes, which are drafty and less efficient.

Call WE Energies to check the history of utility costs for a particular property.

It’s exciting to house hunt for the first time, but don’t let a desire for parties distract you from addressing important issues.

Ask about maintenance. Is there an emergency number to call if something goes wrong?

Check all appliances to make sure they work — flip light switches, turn on faucets, make sure the dishwasher works and your burners actually light.

Talk to current tenants. See what landlords are like after you move in.

Also ask them what appliances they can and can’t live without, like air conditioning.

Read through the entire lease before signing. Once you sign your lease, get a copy of the lease at the time of signing. Save it in case a problem arises with the landlord.

Also, check up on any permit violations, damages or repairs on your prospective apartment or house at Milwaukee’s Department of Neighborhood Services’ Web site.

Making a hasty choice to sign a lease because you think it’s your only option not only perpetuates the rampant buying cycle but also sticks you with an apartment or house you hate because you didn’t take the time to look at your options.